Monday, June 19, 2006

The Gaps in Evaluation

Just last week I was lamenting the fact that we get so few opportunities to conduct proper impact evaluations in the work that we do. Especially if it comes to training initiatives.

If we use the language of the Kirkpatrick model (which has been criticised a lot, I know, but its useful for this discussion), we often end up doing evaluations at Level 1 (Reaction and Satisfaction of the training participants) Level 2 (Knowledge evaluation) and if we are really lucky Level 3 (behaviour change). Seldom, if ever, do we get an opportunity to assess the Level 4 results (organisational impact) of initiatives.

One of our clients are training maths teachers in a pilot project that they hope to roll out to more teachers. In this evaluation we have the opportunity to assess teachers' opinions about the training (through focused interviews with selected teachers), their knowledge after the training (through the examinations and assignments they have to complete) as well as their implementation of the training in the class(through a classroom observation). We will even go as far as to try to get a sense of the organisational impact (by assessing learners). The design includes a control group and experimental group ala Cook and Campbell quasi experimental design guidelines. The problem, however, is that we had to cut the number of people involved in the control group evaluation activities and we had to make use of the staff from the implementing agencies to collect some data. Otherwise the evaluation would have ended up costing more than the training programme for another ten teachers.

In another programme evaluation, our client wants to evaluate whether their training impacts positively on small businesses' turnover and their own company's (a company that markets their products through these small businesses) bottom line. Luckily they have information on who attended the training, how much they ordered before the training and how much they ordered after the training. It is also possible to triangulate this with information they collected about the small businesses during and after the training workshop. This data has been sitting around and it is doubtfull that any impact beyond the financial impacts will be of interest to anyone.

Although both of these evaluations were designed to deliver some sort of information about the "impacts" they deliver, they still do not measure the social impact of these initiatives properly. A report from the "Evaluation Gap Working Group" raises this question and suggests a couple of strategies that could be followed in order to find out what we do not know about the social intervention programmes we implement and evaluate annually.

I suggest you have a look at the document and think a bit about how it could impact the work you do in terms of evaluations.



* For information about the Kirkpatrick Model, please read this article from the journal: Evaluation and Programme Planning at or the following article that is reproduced from the 1994 Annual: Developing Human Resources.

* Cook, T.D., and Campbell, D.T. (1979). Quasi-experimentation: Design and analysis issues for field settings. Rand McNally . This is one of the seminal texts about quasi experimental research designs.
Bill Shadish reworked this text and released it in 2002 again. Shadish, W.R. , Cook, T.D., & Campbell, D.T. (2002). Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference by

* The following post came through the SAMEA listserv and raises some interesting questions about evaluations.

When Will We Ever Learn? Improving Lives Through Impact Evaluation

Visit the website at
Download the Report in PDF format at (536KB)

Each year billions of dollars are spent on thousands of programs to improve health, education and other social sector outcomes in the developing world. But very few programs benefit from studies that could determine whether or not they actually made a difference. This absence of evidence is an urgent problem: it not only wastes money but denies poor people crucial support to improve their lives.

This report by the Evaluation Gap Working Group provides a strategic solution to this problem addressing this gap, and systematically building evidence about what works in social development, proving it is possible to improve the effectiveness of domestic spending and development assistance by bringing vital knowledge into the service of policymaking and program design.

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